Essential Lower Back and Core Strengthening Exercises

Written by Dr Angus Pyke (Chiropractor) 

Angus is the owner and director of Life Chiropractic Port Melbourne

ESSENTIAL EXERCISES FOR EVERYONE

The internet is full advice and tips on how to strengthen the lower back and improve the core. Unfortunately much of the advice is ineffective and best and harmful at worst.

This grouping of exercises - The Big 3 has been developed and researched by back pain expert Dr Stuart McGill.

What makes these exercises effective is their ability to spare the back (i.e not make it worse) while at the same time building muscular fitness, improving stability and control (i.e helping get rid of the pain).

FIVE IMPORTANT TIPS WHEN PERFORMING "THE BIG 3"

Dr McGill shares the following FIVE IMPORTANT TIPS when performing the BIG 3

1. You must practice these exercises daily

2. Avoid performing these immediately after rising from bed. The optimal time would be mid morning to dinnertime. Most people are not fresh enough to reap the benefits when performing these exercises right before bedtime either. 

3. Choosing the dose of exercise within a single session is supremely important. The most tender backs will only tolerate very short sessions of exercise and thus will benefit most from several very brief, sessions throughout the day. If the exercise are too much in one sessions, split the number of exercises into two halves, one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. There'll be some people who being with three or even four very short sessions daily. As they progress, the sessions slowly are reduced tone per day with an appropriate increase in dosage.

4.Bracing the abdominal muscles, rather than hollowing or sucking them in, during exercise invokes all the advantages of achieving a stable core.  To brace, tighten the entire core, "turning" the effort to reduce pain. 

5.Try to maintain your spine in the pain free posture. Create motion about the shoulders and hips, not the spine.

1. THE MODIFIED CURL UP

The modified curl up should not be mistaken for the standard crunch exercise. Dr McGill goes as far to say that the stand "crunch" type sit ups simply have no place in the exercise plan of a person with back pain.

IMPORTANT: During the curl up there should be no movement through the lumbar spine. (sliding the hands under your lower back acts a constant reminder)

Work up to 6 repetitions (3 with each leg extended) with a 10 second hold. See below for details on Russian Descending Pyramid For Sets and Reps Program Design

2. THE SIDE PLANK

The modified curl up should not be mistaken for the standard crunch exercise. Dr McGill goes as far to say that the stand "crunch" type sit ups simply have no place in the exercise plan of a person with back pain.

IMPORTANT: During the curl up there should be no movement through the lumbar spine. (sliding the hands under your lower back acts a constant reminder)

Work up to 6 repetitions (3 with each leg extended) with a 10 second hold. See below for details on Russian Descending Pyramid For Sets and Reps Program Design

3. THE BIRD DOG

Work up to 6 repetitions (3 with each side) with a 10 second hold.  See below for details on Russian Descending Pyramid For Sets and Reps Program Design

Dr McGill recommends the Russian Descending Pyramid For Sets and Reps Program Design

This very clever system guides the number of sets and reps to build some endurance without getting fatigued, and it helps prevent muscular cramps by restoring the oxygen and acid balance every 8-10 seconds.

Typically there are 3 sets.  The holds are 8-10 seconds long.  The rest between each set is  20-30 seconds.  For the second set the number of reps is less - usually 2 less:

Example

  • ‚ÄčSet 1: 6 reps, rest 20 seconds
  • Set 2: 4 reps, rest 20 seconds
  • Set 3: 2 reps, finished.

Living a life with back pain can have a tremendous impact on all aspects of your life.

Taking some time to master the exercises above will be step in the direction towards minimising pain and maximising function.

Over the years we've seen wonderful result in our patients that make these exercises a part of their life.

If you have any questions about these exercises or if you'd like some guidence putting together a program of care to help you live pain free then don't hesitate to reach out to us. You can call the office on 03 9646 1414 or email [email protected] 

 
>